Prince George Citizen - ‘We have to get these horses out’
‘We have to get these horses out’ Written by FRANK PEEBLES
Citizen staff Monday, 22 December 2008
Trying to rescue two horses, volunteers in the Renshaw snowmobiling area have been working from 10 a.m. To 4 p.m. To clear a path for the animals. (Submitted photo)
In the rescue trenches with a Renshaw volunteer The scenery is too beautiful to be a grave for a couple of abandoned horses, and the weather is lovely for digging.
A ragtag team of volunteers - snowmobilers and snowshoers - have been out in the Renshaw sledding area trying to free the horses from a wall of snow about six feet deep and a kilometre wide.
"There was a group of four of us digging at the top and a group of four of us digging at the bottom," said Birgit Stutz, a Robson Valley horse lover and outdoor enthusiast involved in the rescue attempt. They start digging at about 10 a.m. And quit at about 4 p.m. And they still have several days of shoveling ahead of them at the rate they're going. With a large workforce, Stutz said it could be done in a couple of days.
"We probably did 100 metres today at the top, and probably close to that at the bottom," she said. "We GPSed it, and it is 1 km from A to B, but on the ground it is a bit longer because we have to pick a line along the mountainside the horses can walk. It is still quite a ways. We need help. It's been a lot of the same people going up there. We realize people have a life, we all do, but we have to get these horses out before the next snow storm hits."
The local residents knew the horses were left there back in September by a visiting backcountry tourist. He was inexperienced, took the wrong route to his destination, lost the horses, and couldn't recapture them until snows had already set in. When he did finally encounter them, it is rumoured, he simply left them for dead because they were already in poor health.
Stutz said the locals kept hearing reports from hikers and sledders about the horses, but "we were told they were dead" so they didn't think anything more of them.
By chance, a search and rescue mission was needed for an overdue sledder and in the process, the sickly horses were happened upon and the community jumped at the issue. Stutz said each day when she gets home she has "probably 30 emails" and a bunch of phone messages to return to people interested in their progress.
They have had experts in to assess the snow conditions and the area, "and they say digging is the only way, so we believe them, and I am digging." Snowblowers and helicopters and everything in between have been suggested, but each has been ruled out for practical reasons.
"It's actually fun digging. It is peaceful, its beautiful mountain scenery, its actually warmer up there than in the valley and its wind-still," Stutz said.
The horses have been fed, watered, clothed, and they are only a few shovelfuls away from advancing down the makeshift trail of impassible snow. The shovel brigade deliberately did not open the last few feet between their trench and the horses' location.
"They are in a good area right now, but (today) we probably will move them," Stutz said. "There's an area nearby us now we can move them too, and we want to get them closer, in case there's another storm and it drifts in behind us and all our efforts are wasted."
Prince George Citizen - SPCA investigates abandoned horses
SPCA investigates abandoned horses Written by FRANK PEEBLES
Citizen staff Monday, 22 December 2008
While volunteers are digging stranded, emaciated horses out of a mountaintop deathtrap, the SPCA is down below investigating the incident. Not only are Robson Valley residents tired from shoveling, they are a little perturbed about the equine prisoners being locked up in a cell of snow.
Lisa Levasseur, owner of Terracana Ranch Resort and base liaison for the rescue effort, said there is a prevailing rumour as to how the horses came to be alone in the snow.
"The story around here is a hunter from Edmonton came out here and somehow got separated from the horses but couldn't retrieve them," she said. "He left them, came back later in the season with some local help and tried to catch them but when he saw them he said they were too thin to be bothered with so he just left them. That is the story. I don't know if it's true, but that is the story."
The RCMP and the SPCA were made aware of the story and they have taken it seriously enough to investigate.
"There is definitely an open investigation," said SPCA special constable Debbie Goodine. "That is the complaint I have received, yes. For now I will just say it is an open investigation and I will not discuss the details of the case. First we have to see if all the elements of a charge are there, if they are, there will be a recommendation to Crown and Crown will decide to pursue or not purse at that point."
Goodine said SPCA personnel and a veterinarian attended to the horses and found them to be in poor health but now stabilized due to generous provisions made by the volunteer team, led by a group of snowmobilers. An SPCA official would also be visiting the rescue efforts today.
"I sincerely hope to see these horses rescued, then brought back to health and their owner brought to justice," Levasseur said. "People need to understand that if they want to own domestic animals they become responsible for their well being. It is appalling to me that these horses were left to slowly suffer to death, no matter the circumstances. The person or persons responsible could have made a public plea for help in rescuing them earlier in the year or at the very least had the decency to shoot them. These horses are now in very horrid, weak condition and locals are facing near impossible odds, digging over a mile of 6-foot deep snow and braving extreme temperatures to try and save them."
The trench volunteers are digging has to go about a kilometre to reach open trail where the horses can walk without further digging.
Goodine and Levasseur encouraged the public to help either by volunteering time on the shovel brigade or money to pay for sled fuel as supplies and people are ferried up and down the mountain.